A simple man of significance

As we enter December, we welcome in a special time of reflection for what I’m most thankful for – the celebration of the birth of a King.

Do you know your family tree or cherish the history of your ancestry?

The family tree I’m writing about today has extraordinary significance.

There were 14 generations of people from Abraham to David and then 14 more between King David and when the people were taken to Babylon and then 14 more between that time and when Jesus was born.

We don’t know much about Joseph – but we know his lineage. We also know what happened a short time before Jesus was born.

Joseph was engaged to a young woman (back then probably about 14) named Mary. She was pregnant. But not by him. In those days she could have been stoned to death. But he loved her – although had doubt and could not understand why or how she got pregnant. Imagine what he wrestled with in his heart. He even thought about how he could divorce her secretly as to not bring her shame. Luckily – angels came to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid – and that the child she carried was from God and would be called Immanuel (meaning God is with us)

This information is from chapter 1 of the book of Matthew. The first chapter of the New Testament.

Thanks be to God.

Enjoy this song from 4Him and ponder what Joseph was thinking and perhaps remember that God can use anyone to fulfill His purpose and plans. In fact – we all fit into that plan in a unique way. There will never be another you. Never. That’s pretty awesome. We won’t always understand why or how the Lord does what He does – and today I’m reflecting on what a strange way He chose to save the world. #ibelieve https://youtu.be/iKYfzax-sNk

#givethisChristmasaway #ocomeletusadoreHim

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Cairns and Cornerstones

Cairns

If you are a mountain climber, you likely know what a cairn is. These are piles of stones that are formed together to act as land markers or point to a direction for the climber. This is an organized set of stones intentionally put together to draw attention to the onlooker.

Image result for cairn rocks bible
In order for form a cairn, you have to start with the first stone.

Cornerstones

The cornerstone (or foundation stone or setting stone) is the first stone set in the construction of a masonry foundation, important since all other stones will be set in reference to this stone, thus determining the position of the entire structure.
In ancient times, when the foundation of a new building was laid, it was a custom to kill a cock, a ram, or a lamb, and to let its blood flow on the foundation-cornerstone, under which the animal is afterwards buried. The object of the sacrifice was to give strength and stability to the building.
Image result for cornerstone
In order to construct a strong building, you have to start with the first stone.

Strong and not shaken

Have you ever heard the saying, “set in stone”? It means that something is fixed and unchangeable, permanent, strong. This saying came from long ago when Moses wrote the 10 commandments on stone tablets. It was thought that because the sayings were carved into the stones, they would not be changed or destroyed.
Image result for 10 commandments  stone
The stones came from a mountain. In order for something as large to be called a mountain, it starts with the first stone.

Mountains

Mountains are fixed firmly as a collection of stones. Mountains stabilize the earth.
We also know from scientists that these collective stones, mountains,  provide more than 1/2 the world’s food population and provide us with safe, clean drinking water as rivers start on mountains.

Mountains also have deep roots below what we can even see.

Image result for iceberg mountains below the water
Have you ever seen an iceberg? As glorious as they are, they are  bigger and more majestic under the water. Hidden depths beyond what we see.
Mountains, oh so majestic. You rarely hear someone say, “today, I am going to climb DOWN a mountain.” Many people train to climb UP mountains. Why? Rock after rock, the goal is to see something they have never seen, climb heights they have never climbed, and achieve something they have never achieved. The top of the mountain is the goal.
John C. Maxwell even teaches that everything worthwhile is uphill. This is the Law of Mount Everest referenced in his book, “17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork.” <side note: I created an entire teaching on this one law. If you are interested in learning more, just message me or send an email to info@schoolofthoughts.net>
mauna kea and mount everest

Cairns, cornerstones, mountains. Solid rock.

Isaiah 28:16 says
“I am placing a chosen and precious cornerstone in Zion (Jerusalem), chosen for great honor, and ANYONE who trusts in and believes in Him will never have cause to regret it, nor be disgraced.”

THE Cornerstone

Christ, the cornerstone, the rock all other rocks are formed around. Why is Christ the example and the cornerstone and no other rocks can be the cornerstone? He was chosen to be first.
  • He never sinned
  • He never deceived anyone
  • He didn’t retaliate when he was insulted in ways we cannot even comprehend
  • He didn’t threaten people or think of ways to get revenge when He suffered – He even ASKED God to FORGIVE His opponents before He took His final breath
  • He left His situation in God’s hands
  • He personally carried the heavy weight of the sins of mankind (that includes me and you)
  • His wounds were all a part of the purpose of healing us

What kinds of stones form your cairn?

Image result for faith hope love cairn

Have you ever thought about what your cornerstone is?

Do you have any stones on your cairn of life that are called things like “malice and pretense”, “envy”, “hurtful talk”, “jealousy and unkind speech”?

The rocks do not help you. They only hurt you. They hurt others.

Rocks and mountains have such significance in the Bible.

Have you ever heard the saying “a stone’s throw away”? It is a phrase that means something close, something a stone could hit if you threw it.

John 8:7 is a story where there were some men about to stone a woman to death for committing adultery. By the way, the consensual male partner in the story was not on the block to be killed…just the woman. The men asked Jesus what they should do as they grabbed their rocks to hurl at the woman, and He told them – hey guys, whichever one of you has NEVER sinned, go ahead and throw the first stone. None of them could – and they literally had to walk away. We are not the judge of others, yet how many times are we holding stones ready to throw.

God is using us to build a spiritual house.

Honor your role as a stone that joins other stones as the base foundation for helping create a world where God’s will can be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Stones in a pile need a cornerstone. That stone is, was, and will always be Jesus. 

Making changes in life takes faith and trust.

Psalm 118:22 “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone.”

The bible makes it clear in the passage above as a warning that those who do not believe or trust that Christ IS the foundation cornerstone will only see “the stone” as something to trip over, or a boulder blocking the way.

Isaiah 8:14 “They trip and fall because they refuse to obey”

Trust. Believe. Ask. Receive. Share.

Matthew 17:20 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

When we have faith, even just a teensy-weensie bit, we can ask God to move mountains in our lives, not just small stones, and He will move them.

1 Peter 2 says we are to “present ourselves as building stones

We were chosen for working for the Lord, chosen to be holy, chosen to be God’s instruments to:

  • Trust the cornerstone
  • Pray, ask, believe that you are a stone meant to be part of the construction of something bigger than yourself
  • do not keep that truth to ourselves
  • do His work
  • speak out for Him
  • tell others of the night and day difference He has made in your life
  • do not give in to the nay-sayers

Find your footing.

In mountain climbing, sometimes climbers just feel off and do not have stability.  The best climbers know how to relieve stress, find their balance, and continue climbing with confidence.

We are climbing a challenging mountain in this life. There is an invisible war being waged for our very souls. The Bible instructs us to not get comfortable in this world. The tips for finding your footing on the climb come from 1 Peter 2: 11-12:

  1. Do not get comfortable in this world full of nonbelievers lest your footing be even more unstable
  2. Do not indulge your ego at the expense of your soul (Matthew 16:26 says it this way, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”
  3. Live an exemplary life among the natives (all of humanity) so that when they see how you are living, their own prejudices may soften

WHY is this important? It is not about your climb, it is about the collective climb.

The last part of 1 Peter 2:12 says, THEN they’ll be won over to God’s side and BE THERE to JOIN in the celebration when He arrives

The goal is to bring others up the mountain with us. How fun would it be to be at the top and nobody see what is on the other side but you?

Follow the authority of others who’s care you are placed under.

This is a pretty hard lesson friends. In order to make The Master proud, we are to be good citizens and respect the authorities, no matter what their level. The Bible is clear that even if we do not agree, if the leaders do not live the way we think it right, or do not seem to be the ‘right ones’ chosen by God to lead, they were nonetheless put into those roles by God to keep order. Remember – He is not surprised by what is happening in this world. He knows what came before us, what is happening now, and what will happen tomorrow and beyond. 1 Peter 2: 13 says we are simply called to show respect.

It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you are a danger to society.

People climb mountains for the adventure, but you have to train and be prepared for the most challenging mountains.

I watched the movie Everest recently. If you have Spectrum it is ‘on demand’)

The movie was about a real climb the morning of May 10, 1996. There were a few different event companies that were sending climbers up the final ascent toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Everything was planned for, the event companies were prepared, the climbers were prepared. However, ‘mother nature’ had other plans and with little warning, a horrible storm struck the mountain with one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man. The climbers were not skipping through a flat field of daisies. They were challenged by  unimaginable conditions. Some of the climbers including one of the lead climbers died. There were a few others that survived against nearly impossible odds. If the climbers could have seen ahead what would have happened, I wonder what they would have done differently. Would they have trained differently? Would they have chosen not to climb? Would they have been more afraid? In life we cannot see what is ahead. But we can prepare and have trust, confidence, and faith that was is beyond this life is far better than what we are experiencing now.

The kind of life He lived.

The next chapter is a really tough lesson on climbing well, modeling the cornerstone, keeping your footing, and fixing your eyes on what is above, not below.

I struggled with this part of the chapter (1 Peter 2:18) as I looked back on my work-life over the years as well as the shifting winds and decisions of our local, national, and global leaders. This chapter talks about respecting your managers and leaders even if they are bad ones.

Here is what the Word says,

What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no reason. When you continue in spite of being treated badly by being a good servant, that is what counts to God.

Even harder to swallow – we chose to follow Christ – not just the easy parts.

1 Peter 2:22 – He suffered everything that came His way so that we would know it could be done and how we should live step-by-step

What are we fixing our eyes on? Something better.

If you are not a believer, is there anything about the life of Christ you disagree with? Is there anything in His life you would not want to model yourself after? If you are a believer, others (including nonbelievers) judge us by what we do and say, not who we are. We are brothers and sisters of the cornerstone. It is our obligation to model our life after that rock.

Trust and obedience. Fix your eyes.

Isaiah 53:9 He never did a single thing wrong. Not once did He say anything amiss, yet He was called every name in the book and said nothing back. He suffered in silence and content to let God set things right. He used His servant body to carry our sins to the cross so we could be free of carrying the weight. His wounds became our healing. We were like wandering lost sheep with no idea of who we were or where we were going.

Image result for love rescue dog

We are like rescue dogs, now with a name, and kept for good, by the shepherd of our souls, the guardian of our souls, the overseer of our souls, He is man’s best friend.

 

Recap. All of what is written here was discerned from primarily 1 Peter 2.

  1. Clean house – sweep away any negative stones that disrupt your foundation
  2. Honor your role as a stone that joins other stones in crafting the foundation for a better world
  3. Do not be surprised when you fall or trip, when you do not trust the cornerstone you will not have a solid foundation
  4. You, the stone, were chosen to be a part of the structure. Your only obligations are to trust, love, do the work you were designed to do, speak out for the cornerstone, tell other’s about why you have solid grounding
  5. Do not get caught up in this world. We are just visitors and strangers here, traveling as foreigners temporarily. Be vigilant – there is an invisible war being waged for our very souls.
  6. While you cannot earn your way to heaven by being good, it is still not bad to make the Master proud of you by being good citizens.
  7. The way to exercise your freedoms in this ever-changing world, serve God – which does not include breaking rules
  8. Treat everyone you meet with dignity
  9. Model yourself after the cornerstone. Christ never did a single thing wrong. We will never be able to do that, but it doesn’t mean you can’t strive to do better.

1 Peter 2:12 says

Live such a good life that pagans see your good deeds and will glorify God on the day He visits us.

Matthew 5:16 says

In the same way, shine your light before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.

I leave you with partial Lyrics of a new Jason Gray song entitled Mountain. You can hear the full song by clicking here:

A single stone will make a ripple in the river
But a few in a row make a path
Many stones can build a bridge, make a wall, on their own they’re not much at all
You and I are a lot like that

‘Cause together we’re a mountain, a force to be reckoned with
A city we’re building higher, Higher

Follow the leader

Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

Titles are for business cards. It might mean more money and it even may open a door or two. But leadership is more than a title.

One of my favorite John Maxwell books is the “5 Levels of Leadership”. Positional leadership, meaning people HAVE to follow you because of your title, is the lowest rung of the 5 levels.

Master the ability to invest in people and inspire them. True leadership is about influence, guiding, creating more leaders. Good leaders get their hands dirty with their teams – give credit more than they take it – and are people you want to be with, around and like.

I’ve worked with and for a few of both types. Managers, and leaders. They’re both memorable. Both impactful. Just one is a negative charge and the other a positive.

It’s my hope as I continue through my own process in life that I remain imbalanced weighing on the positive side. I have lots of “titles” – but who I am inside is way more important than who I say I am on a LinkedIn profile, resume, or business card.

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Can you be wise and yet foolish?

Let’s take a closer look at King Solomon.

This king is said to be one of the wisest men who has ever lived. God gave him wisdom. Certainly then we would think God must love him!

God doesn’t have degrees of love for us. He created all of us and loves us the same – unconditionally and far more than we love him back.

Solomon was no different.

Let’s take a look (sparing judgment) so you can see that if God Loved and exalted Solomon – how He can, will, and does the same for us.

Solomon’s Dad was David and mom was Bathsheba (you can read more about their story later). His name means “peaceful” – and yet in order to be King he had to kill his half brother Adonijah and David’s general Joab because of a conspiracy.

Solomon wanted to be a good leader and wasn’t out just for money and fame. He asked God for wisdom as the one thing he wanted more than anything else. And so it was granted. He didn’t ask to have the self control once he had the wisdom. He just got the wisdom.

Here is where is starts to get interesting – he married the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh for political reasons (love of power trumped Love of heart and soul).

Solomon could not control his lust for women. It’s thought that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines – 1000! Imagine that. How did he have any time to lead his community!

He built a temple in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah. It’s thought to be the first temple and is considered a wonder of the ancient world. It took 7 years to construct this facility.

He had an affinity for construction – he had a marvelous palace surrounded by gardens, roadways, and different government buildings. Solomon is thought to have had thousands of horses and chariots which allowed him to travel easily.

He made friends with neighboring leaders and built up an incredible economy through trade making him one of the wealthiest rulers of his time.

He ruled for 40 years, had an organized governmental system to distribute taxes fairly, elevated leaders into positions to help him oversee large territories, had peace in his community, built a lot of infrastructure and had a thriving economy and despite his worldly success – he stopped his pursuit of God.

He let the enticement of worldly pleasure, treasure, luxuries, the women, money and more taint him. He started to unfairly tax people and treated his labor like slaves.

Possession and fame were put over his relationship with God.

What do we seek after? What do we treasure? The Bible says that what we treasure is where our heart follows.

Solomon had great success which meant the fall may have been equally as great and painful.

We all have an opportunity to learn from Solomon and to keep our eyes focused on something higher and bigger than what we can temporarily get or achieve here while we spend only a short time on Earth.

Lord – grant me wisdom and also the self control to live in that wisdom. Thank you for providing more than I need – and that when I do not get what I want – it may be because you gave me something far more, exceedingly and abundantly more than I needed. Thank you for loving me just like you loved Solomon and most importantly thank you for sending Jesus to forgive me daily and to extend grace undeserved. Amen

It’s a new day

Morning thoughts: I was reflecting on shortcuts, knowing where you’re going, why you’re going that way, and for Who.

Colossians 3 this morning.

  • Do you remember a time growing up when you were taking a wrong path?
  • Did your parent sit you down and help guide you back onto the right one or a better one?

Mine did.

And once they helped me see that I was on the wrong road –

  1. they hugged me,
  2. we said we loved each other, and
  3. the expectation was set to get on the right road.

This is Colossians 3.

We are not from here. We know exactly what the roads should look like for us here – but we still venture other paths.

This is a reminder to keep our eyes on the right map, not the road we may be cruising down.

What is that path?

  • Wanting more and more and more things and
  • thinking things that are not from God.
  • It’s not only about selfishness and wrong thinking.
  • It’s also about anger, temper, hurting others, lying, and saying shameful things.

We could get paralyzed in these verses because they are prevalent.

Here’s where the story gets good.

It’s not a one way street with no opportunity to turn around or get onto another path.

Verse 10 says EVERY day we are made new and grow in our understanding of the King of the Universe who created us.

He CREATED us for so much more.

He is above us, ahead of us, guiding behind us, and most importantly – He is IN us – all of us – regardless of our full acknowledgement of that.

The chapter doesn’t stop there.

The love and mercy shown in the new day also tells us about the road we SHOULD travel:

  • to show more mercy and kindness;
  • to be humble, gentle, and patient;
  • to curb our anger;
  • to forgive (knowing none of us deserve forgiveness but to give it anyway just as we have been forgiven).

The wrap up piece of the lesson is LOVE, unity, peace, thankfulness, wisdom, and singing.

When you start doing everything in life for someone Who did everything in His life – include giving it up for you – the path will start to be more clear.

Lord – in all the work I’ve been given, may I do the best I can, to stay on the path you’ve paved for me, driving with the right focus, thankfulness, and gratefulness. Thank you for making me new.

The Bible shares a lot about acknowledging the Lord through song – so please enjoy this one from Royal Tailor. I posted this some the other day and it continues to remind me that every day we are made new. And this song by Switchfoot reminds us that we were made for so much more – and to not get lost out there on these pathways.

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Approaching max capacity

Digesting this very critical question posed to me by my teacher and mentor John Maxwell. He asked:

“How close are you to reaching your capacity and maxing yourself out.”

I started to think hard about this.

  • Where is my focus?
  • Where am I investing, spending, and wasting my time?
  • Am I growing or drifting?
  • Have I really exercised self discipline over my thoughts and my actions?

It takes discipline to focus.

Maybe you feel as though you’re approaching max capacity in some area of life as well.

We can either let our buckets overflow – or we can find a way to maximize our capacity.

How?

  • Do you follow a system?
  • Do you keep goals?
  • Do you write thoughts down?
  • Do you take your ideas out of your head and do something with them?

Creative thinking is not creative action.

True.

Thoughts only become things when you act.

I’m not perfect at this. I struggle with it daily. But I try to put first things first.

  1. While it is still dark and quiet – Every morning I read at least one devotional and ponder over some verses of the Bible.
  2. Next I either listen to a Short Leadership lesson from Maxwell, or I read a short article about leadership.
  3. Once I start my actual work day – I start with something called a Passion Planner. You can download it online for free.

Map out what is important and look at what is ahead.

Friends – just like you may be – I’m approaching max capacity.

I don’t focus well and act well every day – but for every day I wake up and get another chance – I try again. I am challenging myself today to think – and then act.

Maybe this will resonate with you too.

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Making Me New

Every morning I go outside and this small tree greets me with purple flowers.

They are so beautiful.

By the afternoon they all fall off.

Most mornings when I wake up – I start on the “right side of the bed”. I express gratefulness, take in some deep breaths, read my devotional, and then wake my kids. I am like this purple bush.

As the day progresses – some of my “flowers fall off”. Maybe it’s a work distraction, a tough meeting, bills, simply not focusing on who and what matters most.

As I was watching this pretty tree this morning – I was reminded that although the flowers fall off and float away – the roots continue to stay firm in the ground and the branches continue to grow.

What I can’t see is that somewhere on the inside of this little tree – deep inside – it is preparing to make new flowers.

These flowers look sort of like the flowers from before – but they are always new. If the old flowers didn’t fall off – there would be no room for the new ones to greet the morning.

There are several comforting verses in the Bible that relate to this phenomenon of us having opportunities to become new daily, to deepen our roots, and to spread and grow our branches.

May one of these bless you as they have for me.

Read all the way to the end so you can get the link to listen to a great and positive song to get you through this day!

  1. Lamentations 3:22 – the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness
  2. 2 Corinthians 4:16 – so we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
  3. Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has made everything new its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end.
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:17 – therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.
  5. Isaiah 43:18 – remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it Springs forth, do you not perceive it?
  6. Isaiah 40:8 – the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of God lasts forever.
  7. Revelation 21:5 – and He who was seated on the throne said “behold I am making all things new”. Also He said “write this down for these words are trustworthy and true.

I love this fun, meaningful, upbeat song by Royal Tailor called “Making Me New”. You can hear it here

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Credentials or Character

So I’m developing a class at work based on the book “Becoming a person of influence” by John Maxwell.

One of the elements of influence – good influence – is integrity.

As I was thinking about what to share I started thinking about the lack of integrity in government, sports, entertainment, and in business.

There are enough stories out there to fill a large book.

Why is integrity so important and yet something some people don’t value?

Stephen Covey was quoted in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” as saying

“if I try to use human influence strategies and tactics of how to get other people to do what I want, to work better, to be more motivated, to like me and each other – while my character is fundamentally flawed, marked by duplicity or insincerity – then in the long run, I cannot be successful”.

Don’t sell your integrity. Character is key.

Not long ago I was working with someone who compromised integrity to grow in their career.

Actually I have seen this many times – especially working for so many years in the music business.

You can look great on the outside – but what about what your insides look like.

These people lost credibility and respect which is hard to regain.

I’ve seen some people with questionable integrity continue to be rewarded, move up the ladder, and “succeed”. But at what cost.

When does the cost outweigh the benefits.

What’s more important – credentials or character?

Should be a no brainer.

I posted yesterday about my LL Cool J story and importance of integrity – it’s paramount. Check it out if you didn’t read it!

Several years ago my friend Donald gave me a training by Joyce Meyer entitled something like “do you have a crack in your foundation”.

Imagine your home.

  • Under the carpet, tile, or wooden floors is the foundation.
  • This is what holds your house together.
  • It’s hidden and not as pretty as the floor coverings.

If your foundation cracks – a tiny crack can become larger over time and ultimately destroy your home.

Cracks in the foundation of large, multi floor buildings can cause even more damage.

Integrity is the foundation. A solid one is a good starting point to becoming and growing as a person of influence.

If you got value out of this – you can read my other posts here and follow on Fb here

Focus – on yourself.

Sometimes these posts are for me for myself.

They hold me accountable to myself.

Many many years ago I worked on a concert for LL Cool J. I’ve had an opportunity to work with many artists over the years.

That one concert and experience is still in the top 10 or maybe even top 3 most profound and impactful experiences I have had.

I spent some time with him privately talking about the show and ticket sales – he was very involved in the whole process.

He talked with me about

  • the importance of integrity, focus,
  • doing what was right despite what was easy,
  • to stand up for yourself and your dreams, and
  • how key it is to keep the best people around you.

I’ll never forget the chat. First class experience.

I don’t make a conscious and deliberate choice every day that moves me closer to my dreams.

I always give my highest and my best – but it’s usually for other people and not for myself.

I started to think this morning of the dangers of being pulled off track and not staying focused.

Even the best race car drivers crash when their focus is just even a small bit off.

Today – I commit to focus. Even if it’s just on one small bit. Maybe this resonates with you as well.

Be a doer

“”Life,” said psychologist Alfred Adler, “happens at the level of events, not words.” Our ability to communicate with one another has expanded a lot in the last ten years. As a result, we have an unprecedented opportunity to encourage, influence and edify others on a major scale. But with the opportunity comes a temptation to give more weight to our words than our actions.

When it comes down to it, the right words matter a lot. But the right actions matter more.

Let’s use our words wisely, to build others up and influence them in positive ways every chance we get. But let’s ultimately be known as people who consistently take the right action. In the end let’s be known as doers.”

– Dan Cathy